January 31, 2017
Announcing New Symphonic and Operatic Projects for Tod Machover
Sam Ogdon

Symphony in D Documentary Premieres at 
Miami International Film Festival on March 5

Boston Lyric Opera Debuts Tod Machover’s Newest Opera, 
Schoenberg in Hollywood, in Fall 2018

Kronos Quartet Announces Tod Machover as One of
Fifty for the Future Composers in Year Three

New World Symphony Presents the Sounds of Miami


Symphony in D, the fifth installment of Tod Machover’s groundbreaking City Symphonies series and the first in the United States, is the subject of a new documentary bearing the same title; it is directed and produced by Marlon Johnson and Dennis Scholl. The world premiere of the 53-minute documentary takes place on March 5 at the Miami International Film Festivalfollowed by showings at the Cinequest festival in San Jose, and at later film festivals around the United States.

Following its festival appearances, the film will be aired on Detroit Public Television (DPTV) and other public broadcasting channels throughout North America. Made possible through substantial support by the Knight FoundationSymphony in D, which utilizes the myriad sound samples and compositions submitted via special mobile technologies created and developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab, premiered at Orchestra Hall in Detroit in November 2015. The yearlong musical collaboration between Machover, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, their music director Leonard Slatkin, and residents of the city of Detroit culminated in two performances that received high critical acclaim: “extremely powerful” (Hyperallergic); “a sprawling, ceremonial communion” (Detroit Free Press).

Tod Machover working with students from Detroit Achievement Academy from the new documentary of Symphony in D.

Anticipated by nearly every local publication and many on a national and international scale, the "love letter to Detroit" (Hyperallergic) was commissioned by the DSO and conducted by Leonard Slatkin, resulting in "big, amassing smorgasbords that invariably proved exhilarating" (Musical America) and "made Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand look like a chamber piece" (Classical Voice North America).  CLICK HERE to view the documentary trailer.

Inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his departure from Hitler’s Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s, Tod Machover is currently creating a new opera titled Schoenberg in Hollywoodcommissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera. Due to premiere in its entirety in Fall 2018, BLO also presents a piano workshop of selections from the opera in Boston this spring, as well as a second piano and electronics workshop and complete reading in early 2018.

“Schoenberg is a towering figure in music, a great visionary who incorporated so many things into his work that we are just beginning to understand its full impact,” Machover said. “I am intrigued with the idea of what happened when Schoenberg – the ultimate uncompromising futurist who was also a wonderful teacher and tinkerer - wound up in the center of L.A.’s film world. He struggled with how to combine art with entertainment, reflection with action, and tradition with revolution.”

Machover says the opera will explore “the pathos, humor and heroism of Schoenberg’s inspiring journey, providing a glimpse of what might have happened if he had reconciled all these opposites.”

The libretto to Schoenberg in Hollywood is written by English theater and film actor, director, and writer (The Ghost Train Tattoo for theater and short-story anthology The Separate Heart)) Simon Robson. It is based on a scenario by Braham Murray, who also directs Schoenberg in Hollywood, and who previously directed two other Machover operas, Resurrection (1999) and Skellig (2008).

Braham Murray, Tod Machover, and Simon Robson at Schoenberg in Hollywood vocal auditions in New York

Tod Machover is especially known for his visionary operas, which frequently incorporate groundbreaking technologies developed by Machover and the MIT Media Lab to expand the expressive potential of performance and staging and to bridge the gap between performers and audience. In addition to Schoenberg in Hollywood, Machover is also the composer of six other operas. VALIS (1987), based on the sci-fi classic by Philip K. Dick and commissioned by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris for its tenth anniversary, was called “the first opera of the 21st century” by the Boston Globe. Magicians Penn & Teller premiered Machover’s 1994 opera Media/Medium in Las Vegas. The Brain Opera (1996/8), is an interactive extravaganza that was commissioned for the first Lincoln Center Festival, toured worldwide, and was installed long-term at Vienna’s House of Music, and which allows an onsite and online audience to interact with – and help create -  the opera’s elements in real time. Resurrection - based on Tolstoy’s final novel of the same name -  was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and premiered there in 1999. Machover’s 2008 opera, Skellig, premiered at the Sage Gateshead (UK), and is based on the bestselling children’s novel by David Almond, who also wrote the libretto. The “robot opera” Death and the Powers premiered in Monaco at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2010 and subsequently debuted in the United States in Chicago and Machover’s hometown, Boston; it was staged in 2014 by Dallas Opera in a production that was recorded for distribution on Blu-ray Disc, and was simulcast worldwide using specially developed technologies to allow viewers to interact with the performance onstage through smartphones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices. 


Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall’s 125 Commissions Project launched during its 125th season, the world-renowned Kronos Quartet and Kronos Performing Arts Association has announced Tod Machover among its composers selected for the third year of Fifty for the Future - an initiative to produce 50 new compositions by 25 female and 25 male composers. Established in 2015, one of the goals of Fifty for the Future is to serve as an educational tool for students and rising professional artists, via free online modules containing scores, parts, recordings, videos, and other informative materials for each new piece of music. Each new work is performed by Kronos during their touring season. Machover says his new work – set to premiere in June 2018 – will be “a kind of compendium of thinking about electronics in live performance, presented in a way that will allow the piece to evolve and keep posing challenging questions far into the future.”

After the great successes of Machover’s previous City Symphonies in Europe, Australia, and North America, the series is expanding its reach to include new places, composers, performers, and artists. Project 305, a symphony for and by the people of Miami, is due to debut on October 21, 2017. Performed by the globally-renowned New World Symphony, Project 305 is penned by politically-minded composer Ted Hearne with visuals by filmmaker Jonathan David Kane; it will be conducted by NWS Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, who will also collaborate on the overall artistic direction of the project. Machover oversees the progress of Project 305; previously, he looked after the development of Sounds of Akron, composed by Clint Needham for the city of Akron, Ohio, which premiered in April 2016.  

New World Symphony partners with the MIT Media Lab as well as the Knight Foundation, who have donated $350,000 to the newest installment of the series, inviting Miami residents to submit sounds and images that represent the culture of their unique city. All of Miami’s communities are encouraged to participate in the various events and workshops with the lead artists between January 31 and May 12 - a span of 100 days. “The New World Symphony, with its dedication to expanding audiences for classical music via innovative programs like the Pulse concert/club series and free Wallcast concerts in its Soundscape garden (which is how Project 305 will premiere); and the Knight Foundation, with its mission to blend culture and community and its interest in new technology, are ideal partners for Machover’s project,” states the Miami Herald. READ the full announcement.


About Tod Machover

Tod Machover is Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab, where he also directs the Opera of the Future group. Called a “musical visionary” by The New York Times and “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times, Machover is an influential composer and inventor, praised for creating music that breaks traditional artistic and cultural boundaries and for developing technologies that expand music’s potential for everyone, from celebrated virtuosi to music-lovers of all abilities and backgrounds. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM in Paris. Since 2006, he has been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Machover’s music has been performed and commissioned by many of the world's most important performers and ensembles, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Lucerne Festival (where he was 2015 Composer-in-Residence), the Edinburgh International Festival, the Ensemble InterContemporain, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Tokyo String Quartet. He has received numerous prizes and honors, including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the French Culture Ministry, which named him a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music and was the inaugural recipient of the Arts Advocacy Award from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2013. In 2016, he was named Composer of the Year by Musical America.

Machover is widely recognized for designing new technologies for music performance and creation, such as Hyperinstruments, “smart” performance systems that extend expression for virtuosi, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public. The popular videogames Guitar Hero and Rock Band grew out of Machover’s group at the Media Lab. His Hyperscore software—which allows anyone to compose original music using lines and colors—has enabled children around the world to have their music performed by major orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and rock bands. Machover is also deeply involved in developing musical technologies and concepts for medical and wellbeing contexts, helping to diagnose and treat conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or allowing people with cerebral palsy to communicate through music.

Machover has recently worked on a series of “collaborative city symphonies” to create sonic portraits of cities for, and with, the people who live there. So far, City Symphonies have been created for Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth, Lucerne, and Detroit, and a new series for cities around the world is currently being launched. Machover is currently at work on his next opera project–a commission from Boston Lyric Opera for fall, 2018–as well as on works, installations, and technologies that continue to push artistic frontiers, while engaging the public to expand individual creativity and to establish multisensory collaboration and empathy within communities and across the globe.

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